Walking the Sacred Path of Grief

 

I’m into my sixth week of my sabbatical.  I’ve traveled many miles, walked several labyrinths and have spent cherished time with family.  As my sabbatical began, I thought I would write a reflection on each labyrinth walk, sharing with you a little bit about that particular labyrinth.  I have not done that because something has happened with each walk that has been difficult to process.

Grief.

Let me share a little backgound.  I had planned the perfect sabbatical schedule, all around the theme of Walking the Sacred Path.  I would be trained as a facilitator at Ghost Ranch, NM, the very first week of my sabbatical.  Perfect way to start.  School would have ended, my daughter will have graduated and I would go off for a week to be entrenched in all things labyrinths.

Well, the school calendar got pushed into my scheduled labyrinth experience due to so much ice and snow.  My daughter’s graduation would most likely land right in the middle of my scheduled time at Ghost Ranch.

I wasn’t sure what I would do.  My sabbatical emphasis really focused on me being trained as a labyrinth facilitator with Veriditas.  Veriditas scheduled a more brief experience in OKC at the University of Central Oklahoma.  If an adjustment had to be made, this was perfect.  You see, earlier this year, my nephew Trevor’s cancer returned for a third time.  This time was much different, the only treatment even possible would be a clinical trial.  Going to OKC for the training was a perfect plan B. Trevor’s silly and crazy Aunt could spend some time with him while he was in treatment.  Maybe I could help out some if he was not feeling so great. This would be good.   I rescheduled and bought my plane ticket.

Everything changed so quickly.  My sister called and said it looks like Trevor had a mini stroke.  He was in and out of the hospital quickly.  I texted him Thursday night to see how he was doing.  He said better but it was weird to not have full use and feeling on one side.  He sounded positive and good.  Friday my sister called and said they’ve rushed him to the hospital,  more strokes and seizures.  I bought a one way plane ticket, as did my sister Debbie and my brother Bob.  My sister Rho and her daughter loaded the car and drove in.  All of us came in.

We stayed positive, but after a couple of days it looked like Trevor would not regain consciousness and they put him on palliative care.  As we sat in the ICU waiting room, I remembered the labyrinth I was to come back in May to be trained on.  I wanted to walk it.  I shared with my brother in law, Tom, what I was going to do.  He said he wanted me to join him and he wanted the whole family to go.  And so we did.  We all went, the Duhons, my sisters,  brother as well as Tom’s sister and brother.  I did my best to explain what we were doing and how walking the labyrinth could be a place of prayer and healing.  C650FB32-E9B1-4D8F-A4B2-C70261432281I returned home on Thursday.  Trevor passed away the following Friday.

From that point on it’s as if life just took off.  My daughter had a lead role in her high schools spring musical with opening night being that Friday night.  Trevor loved loved loved broadway musicals.  As much pain as we were in, he would want nothing more than for Allison to get on stage opening night and kill it.  She did!  The next two weeks were filled with her 18th birthday and the second weekend of her show.  We then made the road trip to OKC for Trevor’s celebration of life service.  We came home on in time for Good Friday services followed by Easter and before we knew it, Allison was graduating.

Boom, my sabbatical began.

Every labyrinth walk has brought up Trevor.  So much can happen when you walk a labyrinth.  Most of the time what rises up within you doesn’t occur every time, unless it’s grief.  With each walk I kept tucking the feelings of grief that arose within me, away.

In my 6 weeks on sabbatical I’ve walked 9 different labyrinths.  Many of them several times.

 

Danville KY

 

Frankfort KY

 

Santa Fe NM

 

Ghost Ranch NM

 

Purple Adobe Lavendar Farm, NM

 

Center For Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, NM

 

New Life Presbyterian Church, Albuquerque, NM

 

Louisville Presbyterian Seminary

 

Saint Stephens Presbyterian Church, Fort Worth, TX

 

Big Roots Lavendar Farm, Hawesville, KY

At each and every walk un attended to grief has risen from within.  I know this happens.  I’ve counseled many in congregations I have served about caring for and attending to their grief.  What has occurred to me, is that every time I’ve lost someone one I deeply love, my dad, my mom and my nephew,  big life events or activities immediately followed.  Bill and I were married two weeks after my dad died.  My family left for a 9 day trip out west to OK and NM just a couple of days after my mom died.  School plays, 18th birthdays and graduations happened just days and weeks after Trevor’s death.  With all three, I have not taken the time to experience their loss, be it 20 years ago, 2 years ago or 3 months ago.

Walking through grief is a necessary path to walk if healing and wholeness is to be experienced.  It hurts.  There are tears we experience so unexpectedly.  We long for one more laugh.  One more hug.  One more meal around the family table.

To call something sacred is to call attention to the presence of the Holy in our experiences of life.  Grief is a sacred path to walk.  We don’t walk it alone.  In our tears, pain and loss, God walks with us.  I have felt the presence of God in my labyrinth walks in ways I have never felt before.  I have literally felt being lifted up and held.

As I said in an earlier blog, Julien Norwich said “all things will be well.”  I know now that I need to no longer push away the grief and loss I have felt, with Trevor, with my mom and with my dad.

While Trevor was in ICU, and I held his hands, I had this deep profound feeling that my dad and mom were welcoming Trevor, as he joined them in the full and loving presence of God.  A reunion that fills me with joy.

I miss all three of them in ways I never realized I could.  I will continue to walk this path, this sacred path of grief.  With each turn and twist, I will lean in the the care of the Holy who walks it with me.  In this moment, I feel relief.  I know grief is like a wave of an ocean that can come quick.  I’m not scared.

“You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand


And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine


Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now”

This hymn was played at Trevor’s celebration of  life.  It has been a guide on almost all of my labyrinths  walks this summer.

I miss this fun and crazy guy.  I hope he realized he was my hero.  His strength, courage, faith and the many ways he shared joy with others inspired me.

 

God will guide me through this grief.

My prayers for you is that you too feel the guidance of God, God’s sovereign hand guiding you through what ever you might be walking though; what ever challenge, pain, or loss you might be be experiencing, may you feel God near.

We walk this sacred path together.

peace and blessings,

Micki

So many paths. First: New Mexico.

Welcome To New Mexico3CC44569-0EDF-4C5E-8D9D-EFB8FDF1AFE0

It has been a whirlwind time of visiting family and just being with Bill, Allison and Jordan.  I have taken so many pictures I’m not even sure which ones to share.  It has been a gift to be able to spend so much uninterrupted time with family.  We left the morning after Allison’s graduation for New Mexico.  I spent the mornings on my Aunt Sarah’s patio.  We both spent time on our morning devotions.  We talked and shared stories and memories.  I learned so much about my mom and my grandmother that I did not know.

I spent time with my brother, Bob.  Time with him is always life giving.  He is a soulful person.  When he asks you how you are, he means it.  When he looks you in the eye, he is right there focused with you.  I miss him.  I finally got to spend time with my niece, Mati,  and her beautiful daughter, Lylah.  The visit was brief.  The time spent with my cousin Davelle left me with so much joy.  The week in New Mexico almost felt like coming home.  For one who really does not call any particular place ‘home,’ it was a unique experience.

Jordan, Bill and my brother had an amazing time fly fishing together.  I shared in a previous post some of my experiences with labyrinths at Ghost Ranch. the Purple Lavendar farm and the Center for Contmplation.  I will share in another post about my last labyrinth walk in Albuquerque.  What has risen from within me from these walks will need it’s own post.

Time with family, deep spiritual reflection and some good New Mexican food made our visit amazing.

The view from my Aunt Sarah’s patio.

Exploring Petoglyph National Monument was amazing.  90% of the images date back between 1300-1600 AD.  It’s kind boggling to think of the feet that have walked among these paths 1000’s of years ago.

We enjoyed our visit to the Pueblo Museum.  The dancers were so moving.  I loved her commentary of the drum being the heart beat.  The connection to the earth and their ancestors moves me every time.  The circle of life spiral is similar to a labyrinth.

The hike on Sandia Peak beautiful.  It was 98 degrees down in the city and a nice 75 degrees in the Sandia Mountians.  10,000 feet elevation.  I’ve been here many times, it’s always beautiful!

Bill, Jordan and my brother had some time on the San Juan that will be life long memories.  There were fires around NM and their  fly fishing plans had to be adapted.  Most of the state parks were closed so it meant driving a little further.  It was worth every mile.

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We decided a journey back to New Mexico will happen again.  The miles are long but the family and connections to that special place is worth the journey.

Blessings on where ever you journey today.

Walking as a Pilgrim or a Tourist?

Walking as a Pilgrim or a Tourist?

I walked three different labyrinths in the past two days, all in very different places.  One was out side an historic Catholic Cathedral in Santa Fe.  (It’s actually a Basilica, the Pope has visited it). One in the middle of the desert at a retreat center.  One at an organic lavender farm.

So much to reflect over,  I can’t possibly share it in one post.  While walking the labyrinth in Santa Fe, at a place I’ve visited a few times but never to walk the labyrinth and praying in the garden of the stations of the cross, I saw a tour buse pass by.  I realized I don’t just want to live like a tourist that moves quickly through.   I long to linger, listen, learn and even be transformed.  I will share more of the ‘transformation’ I feel taking place already on this journey.  I experience and saw so much more as I slowed down to see and listen.  A pregnant woman who will soon give new birth.  A foreign couple in awe of southwest culture.  The expressions on the many faces of Jesus of the sculptures on the stations of the cross.  The sound of the wings of a bird flapping as it soared over my head.  The pure silence in the desert.  The colors of the mountains.  The deer that gracefully and quietly walked past the labyrinth while I walked it.  The beating of my heart as I hiked in altitude of 6500-7000.  So. So. Much.  It’s late.  For now I invite you to see a glimpse into the ‘Walking the Sacred Paths’ I’ve walked this past few days. I truly have felt the Spirit on the path with me.  What ever paths you’ve walked this day, I pray you too have felt the Spirit with you.

My walk in Santa Fe.  I encourage you to look more closely at the sculptures. Look at the expressions.

My labyrinth walk and hikes at Ghost Ranch.

FA85622E-775A-4971-9573-81028500A0E84A2B3641-1B1B-4BFE-B496-A8645BF8C7E69886008E-6AA2-4A2F-B3A1-49742A66AFDBA9FBDE41-CA13-4DCA-AD78-C8E37F03A20FA7934F90-E930-40B1-B356-E88315E3D9AC8DFA3C05-FACD-4045-A74D-28ED4CB0EC22144A47AD-8099-438A-8B54-34200F6E3F93B2BF1516-2CC3-4E47-B8D7-D5800E4755FC57296BBE-D377-4EC1-AD7E-9A785C34F74FBC08FEA7-B1B3-4055-8A89-28E8DD00A4C036EA5E39-61DD-47D0-BE60-B1DBDECD22BDD965DACF-22CA-4CB8-9853-61BB2332D1502E30D8A0-3AC2-46C6-B4B2-91529684316B50156768-E95B-407D-9073-CBE5DA2DAAFBE4FF6E4F-579B-4150-BFEC-A9062DDE620933133D2A-4D5E-4FC5-A591-C4A37F43AB3F870551CC-801F-4CC1-8685-EB0A1F112C60D0C044D5-DD85-468F-AE83-A6F4CA7A9BCFC6A7D14B-9517-48FD-92ED-374434172F1E59B83CDB-821F-4CF3-A7EE-88F092263CE4C1BFA033-10BF-4745-A1FB-5B504F425FDECF65C281-52BE-4765-AECE-55863FCABDB4A51A937B-9B78-4413-9045-B105B84C446D629A88DF-032B-41C9-9AFC-CF31BBB573F79EEA7885-8CC7-4A43-9A69-38B6475F012444FE1566-F106-4975-A4AF-B4C9B783E65A88ADAB5C-8300-4B42-82E9-B26936459A683872A38C-CEE4-4BF5-A879-E53068C7A44D73FC4D45-6F67-48CB-A446-C87EDFB0C15C5D322240-B251-4D59-8136-4988FE697BF1B412830D-DFC8-44CF-B07E-CA48E1CF550E0E1DA5B7-ED02-4EB2-904D-45AB4A0D456E8D5573CB-5974-4327-98CA-30C83619E2371D4AB85D-12CD-40DB-A2EE-3E237C7210196C3FEF12-3819-43C7-9826-0614F29AE39F8E60A10F-F5DC-4379-A2DA-8B8D665C66D6C0225571-25D3-430A-9376-CA76772DF6521A2FC1D9-E17F-4772-80EB-87FA8B6AD62B56B7C7F1-F220-4C23-9089-3F4A58C77EB4D44540DD-4886-433D-9C5C-9B61C1972742I ended my 2 day retreat with a peaceful, yet hot, walk and prayer time on a labyrinth in the middle of a lavender farm.D1BC24BE-65E4-4CF6-8D82-E4A1954111C5B1EEC5FD-29FB-4829-AE17-86752525F24D6890E6F0-31A7-42EC-9B76-1CC8A5C1F3BD966A58B0-6063-4A40-A03B-2D37489327312EE023CF-38FE-4D1B-9E37-8934D0AB84EA8039D509-9B74-4C16-BE17-7AD09F804692

“Don’t Push The River…It Flows By Itself”

A4920219-8A9F-4EA5-8AF9-90952EC49E32On my second day of sabbatical, I woke up early again, this time to walk the labyrinth in Frankfort.

678A7FF4-8757-4408-847F-7B5F6BB5C7E32B4E3C76-FB2F-42B7-AEE0-1F28F3DFC43AFrom the beginning of the walk, I felt different.  I had a really difficult time centering.  Monday just felt like a long weekend with a day off.  Tuesday felt like I needed to get back to work.  There was this anxiousness from within that kept me wanting to rush through the walk.  My inner voice was trying to tell me: “Hurry!  You have stuff to do!”  I had to stop again and again and take deep breaths.  A quote from Lauren Artress book “Walking The Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice” rose from within me.  In my copy of her book I have underlined it, stared it and circled it.  “Don’t push the river…it flows by itself.”  ( p 89)  Our ego, she says, attempts to force us to make something happen.  I wanted to force a quick experience and move on to my day.  What did I have to move on to that was so pressing?  Laundry?  Shopping?  Allison’s graduation celebration?  Sure, some of that needed to be done, but not then.  In Children’s Worship & Wonder we tell the children to not hurry, we have all the time we need.  I needed to claim both those quotes.  “Don’t push, you have all the time you need.”

As soon as I said the words, I could smell it…the sweet scent of honeysuckle.  All my senses opened up.  It was cleansing.  FDC2B6A5-76DC-44F7-A32B-2C72606B28D2AE9061FD-E156-4126-9280-A1B300508280I was trying so hard to force my walk that morning I didn’t even notice the labyrinth was surrounded by honeysuckle and other beautiful blooms.4E67A07B-D395-49ED-B6A6-A6977FF23F3EBreath in.   Breath out.  An important part of spiritual growth is to learn to listen.  Listen from within ourselves and from without.  It was not long before I was on the labyrinth, singing.

Oh God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You.  I will seek You in the morning and I will learn to walk in your ways.  Step by step you lead me.  I will follow you all of my days.  

Setp by step…trust.  To walk a sacred path is to know and trust that there is guidance along the way.  We don’t have to force the journey.

On your path today may you sense the Guidance of God.

Peace & Blessings on your journey.

Sunrise and Weeds

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2F16A1AF-1540-455D-99DA-27B4B493C9A406F943F7-DBC5-4817-8923-D03E8D9334D0On the first day of my sabbath, I rose early to head to Danville, KY to walk the labyrinth near Centre College.  It was a beautiful drive.  The morning fog across the horse farms felt like pure Kentucky.  At 6:30 am, there was no one around.  I found a parking spot and with anticipation I walked toward the labyrinth.  As I approached, my heart sank.  I could barely see it.  Weeds, leaves and gravel covered most of it.3F7D13C7-8D9B-4F76-B384-148C89E10A84At first I thought I could go ahead and walk it, ignoring the cluttered paths and walk around the mess.  Then it hit me, my own words from the opening of my sermon yesterday and the same opening words in our grant proposal given to Lily Endowment Clergy Renewal program:  “His three year old body picked up a stick that looked huge and heavy in his little hands. Banging the stick to the ground, he then began making the sound of a motor while slowing moving the stick along the edge of the trail. I asked him: “What are you doing buddy?” “Weed eating Momma. I’m getting rid of the weeds so that we can see the road like we can see our sidewalk at home.”   

1E33CC85-40A2-42A4-AF3D-EE452634F243In order to see the path God calls us to walk, sometimes we have to remove some weeds.  Of course I was going to have to remove some weeds to see the the path of my first labyrinth walk of the sabbatical.  How much more metaphorical can it get?  My walk on the labyrinth literallly began with me on my knees pulling weeds.  After pulling all the weeds, I was not sure what would be the most efficient way to sweep all the debris off the labyrinth.  I thought maybe one quadrant at a time.  A funny thing happen.  I found myself sweeping, walking, in a circular walk around the labyrinth, sweeping the debris toward the outer circuits.   I walked the labyrinth as I swept it.  I’ve tried to find the words to describe the deep spiritual experience this was.  I became almost lost in it.  I looked up and saw that the center and the 7-8 circuits around the center were completely clean.  In those moments I truly felt more centered than I have in awhile.

This experience of clearing the weeds became a way for me to release my worries about the next few weeks.  Did I prepare everything that the volunteers need?  Will I be able to be in the moments and not feel the need to plan the next moment?  What will I think about if I’m not planning or working on a new ministry or how to improve current ministries?  It was hard work cleaning the labyrinth.  When I finished, it looked beautiful and ready to walk.  Letting go can be hard work, but beauty often follows.

F3B104DE-7B0F-48BA-8555-B56DDEA7783CI always begin my pastoral prayers with “Let us center ourselves and meet God in prayer.”  Taking some time to let go and be as fully present with God makes the moments of prayer more meaningful.  It’s like being with a friend, co-worker or family member.  Put down the cell phone and make eye contact.  Get off the computer and pay attention.  Turn off the television and really listen.

I wonder how you can center yourself to be more fully present, with God, your friends, your co-workers and your family.  I think we all need to engage in some weed eatimg.  Tomorrow begins with another sunrise.  May the paths you walk center you and bring you peace.

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